There is no joy in Liberalville--Mighty Obama has struck out. Well, at least in this round he did. The people at FOX are dancing in the locker room and spraying cheap champagne on each other while the men and women at MSNBC are hammering wildly at the panic button.
But just how bad was it really? The Slate published these comments by pundits:
National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote, "Like other presidents before him Obama fell victim to high expectations, a short fuse, and a hungry challenger."
The Washington Post writer, Chris Cillizzi wrote that Obama crossed the "fine line between sober/serious and grim/uninterested."
The Chicago Tribune wrote that Obama was "that guy at the meeting who's surreptitiously checking his email."
Ok, he didn't win it, but lets not get carried away. There was no knock out punch ala Reagan vs. Carter and there are still two more presidential debates to go, although one has to think the audiences for those will be slightly smaller than this one.
Part of the problem is an over analyzing of the entire debate by those who are paid to over analyze these things. And there is always the ever present hyperbole associated with television news operations. Everything reported on TV is smash mouth drama with a few facts thrown in just so they can call themselves professional journalists.
What I saw was an aggressive challenger who entered the contest knowing he had to win and going all out to do so. What I saw in the champ was a man who wasn't attempting to win the debate, but one simply trying not to lose it. Obama went into a clench, landed a couple of shots, but clearly played for a draw. He was the lumbering Sonny Liston to Romney's weaving, bobbing, jabbing Muhammad Ali. Why he played it that way is something experts will be questioning for days, but that is the way it went down.
Much has been made of why Obama didn't go after Romney's 47% quote and his connection with Bain Capital. In fact after it was done it appeared Chris Matthews was going to have a stroke on the air as he raged about the omission. Speculation from this desk is that the Romney team anticipated such a move and had prepared for it diligently for weeks. Going there would have been tempting some sort of well rehearsed response and a killer one liner that could have made things worse than they actually ended up being. No, it looked to me like Obama smelled a trap, a "there you go again" moment and since he was being overly cautious to begin with, decided to avoid that trip wire altogether.
There can be no doubt that the Obama campaign is now on the defensive, at least until the next foot in mouth moment by Mr. Romney. However, for most lay persons who saw it last night there wasn't the titanic melt down by the president the media is portraying it to be.
And therein is Mr. Obama's real problem right now. Despite what everyone actually saw, how many will listen to the howls and huzzahs from the "experts" and decide they, not their own ears and eyes were right.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein spoke to that in a Tweet earlier. He wrote, "Much worse for Obama than the debate, is the media's harsh verdict on his debate performance."
Indeed. This thing has just gotten a lot closer, but it isn't over by any stretch of the imagination. Obama took a hit, he didn't jump off a Saipan cliff. Keep in mind crises run up ratings and ratings sell beer and cars. Everyone is in the business to become famous and you don't get that way when you don't sensationalize and magnify the importance of every moment of every day.
Next up Biden and Ryan.